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Sooner than later for new elementary school

Enrollment projections lead to a slight gamble for CCA facilities plan

OXFORD– In September, voters in the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Community School District will be asked to approve a $36 million bond issue, which– if approved– would finance a new elementary school among other projects aimed at addressing continued enrollment growth. The new unnamed elementary was originally scheduled to be open for the 2020-21 school year; however, Superintendent Tim Kuehl recently asked the School Board of Directors to move it up one year.
Kuehl gave his monthly superintendent’s report to the board Wednesday, May 10, at Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford. Kuehl said looking at the latest projections for future enrollment led him to ask for the change.
The latest numbers from RSP & Associates, the consulting firm hired by the district to monitor enrollment growth, show North Bend Elementary, in North Liberty, exceeding its instructional capacity next year (2017-18) and exceeding the structural capacity in the 2021-22 academic year. (Instructional capacity refers to the optimal number of students in academic spaces within the structure while structural capacity involves filling the building to capacity with students learning in improvised spaces, as well as in packed classrooms.) According to RSP’s numbers, Tiffin Elementary will exceed instructional capacity in 2019 and structural capacity is 2021.
Kuehl told the board getting the new school open in 2019 would save a ton of busing for North Bend kids. In an email follow up, Kuehl explained, “We can get creative with space at North Bend for a couple years and make it work.”
As an example of improvised learning spaces, students would– once again– likely be placed in the teachers’ lounge, he said. “But by 2019-20, they just won’t fit. By moving the opening of the a new elementary, hopefully, up to 2019 we can avoid needing to bus the fifth grade someplace else for one year.”
Kuehl said he’d already spoken with Phil Larson of Shive-Hattery, the district’s architectural and engineering firm, about moving the design work up.
“They can make it happen, if we want to go that way,” he said. “And I talked to Tim Oswald (the district’s financial advisor through Piper-Jaffray), and he’s confident we could make it work.”
Moving the project up a year would affect the timing of bond sales, contingent on the bond referendum passing.
“If it doesn’t pass, we’ll be busing students like crazy,” Kuehl added.
In order to alleviate overcrowding at Tiffin and North Bend in the 2020-21 school year, upper elementary students would most likely need to be bused either to Oxford or Amana elementaries.
“If it does pass, we could probably avoid having to bus the fifth graders from North Bend, which to me is just sound educationally. I hate to put those kids in a year of having to be bused, if we can avoid it,” said Kuehl.
He explained that in order for the elementary to open in August 2019, Shive-Hattery needs to start the design progress this August, prior to the bond passage. That would require the board to approve a contract with the design firm in June.
“We’re risking a little bit having them start whole-heartedly on the design before the bond passes, but on the other hand, are we? That building’s going to have to happen sooner or later,” Kuehl added.
Passage of the bond would see a two-year window (2017-19) for construction, typical of such projects. Doing the six-to-nine months of design work now expedites starting the actual construction.
“We’re gonna spend the time either way,” Kuehl noted.
With the consensus of the board, he said he would have an agreement with Shive-Hattery and documents from Piper-Jaffray available for members at the June meeting, at which time the board is anticipated to give its official approval for the work.
The board also approved the language for a petition, which will be circulated throughout the district by Facilities Committee members calling for a special election for the bond referendum. The ballot language is to be approved in August with the special election and school board elections set for Tuesday, Sept. 12.

The petition:
“To the President and Board of Directors of the Clear Creek Amana Community School District, in the Counties of Iowa and Johnson, State of Iowa:
We, the undersigned, are eligible electors, reside within the School District and petition the Board of Directors of the School District to call a special election to submit to the voters of the School District the following proposition the purpose of which cannot be accomplished within the limit of one and one-quarter percent of the assessed value of the taxable property within the School District.
Shall the Board of Directors of the Clear Creek Amana Community School District in the Counties of Iowa and Johnson, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $36,000.000 to provide funds to build, furnish, and equip a new elementary building, including related site improvements; to improve, remodel, repair, furnish and equip Amana Elementary, Clear Creek Elementary, and North Bend Elementary, including accessibility improvements at Clear Creek Elementary, air conditioning improvements at Clear Creek Elementary and Amana Elementary, and security improvements at all three sites; to build, furnish and equip a gymnasium addition at Clear Creek Elementary; to build, furnish, and equip an addition to the High School; to improve the Middle School site access drive; and to improve the parking at the High School site?”